Group 1 of this season Championship League Snooker concluded on Tuesday and here is the report by WST:
Liang Into Winners’ Group
Liang Wenbo is the first player through to Winners’ Group of the BetVictor Championship League Snooker Invitational after the completion of Group 1 at the Morningside Arena, Leicester.
Liang overcame Jack Lisowski in the Group Final 3-1 to move safely through a group that also contained Graeme Dott, Zhou Yuelong, Ryan Day, Gary Wilson and Tom Ford.
Dott won all six group games to top the group but then lost his play-off semi-final against Lisowski. Liang finished second in the group then scored a 3-2 success over Day to reach the final.
Breaks of 91 and 90 put China’s Liang 2-0 up in the final. Lisowski pulled one back with a 73 only for Liang to complete the scoreline with a superb 136.
Liang said: “The seven players were very good. I played okay today then by winning the semi-final I found some confidence. Jack is a good friend and I played well in the final. I just had to concentrate. I had to show my style and play my game.
“I haven’t done well in the last two or three years, maybe I haven’t felt confident. I have been working hard. Seeing Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao winning tournaments perhaps woke me up!”
The tournament carries a prize fund of £205,000 with players earning £100 per frame won with significant bonuses for their final group position and increased prize money in the Winners’ Group. A place in the 2022 Cazoo Champion of Champions is also on the line.
Ford and Zhou are eliminated by finishing 6th and 7th while Wilson, Day, Dott, and Lisowski all return in Group 2 action on Wednesday with Xiao Guodong, Joe Perry, and Lu Ning entering proceedings. Action gets underway from 11 am UK time.
Graeme Dott had won all six of his league matches, but was beaten by Jack Lisowski at the semi-finals stage. The highest break of the group was 136, by both Zhou Yuelong and Liang Wenbo. Ryan Day scored the 400th century of his career in his semi-final against Liang Wenbo.
I’m glad to see Liang Wenbo playing well again. He’s a very entertaining player to watch and was always lovely whenever I met him when I was taking pictures on the main tour.
Group 2 started yesterday, and apparently there was a sequence of shots during the Lu Ning v Xiao Guodong match that got the usual twitter brigade up in arms, accusing both players of cheating and, of course, of match fixing. Here are a few thoughts about that:
- match fixing only makes sense if one or both player(s) have something to gain from it. Unless there is proof of foul play, or at least strong suspicion supported by some facts, like abnormal betting patterns, I feel very uneasy with such accusations, especially as they usually target mainly Asian players.
- this competition, organised by Matchroom, the commercial entreprise that owns the sport, and sanctioned by WST, has a format that doesn’t offer the strongest of incentive to win. Indeed, a player is likely to make more money if they keep competing in successive groups, which means that the most lucrative strategy is to do well enough in the groups, without winning one, until reaching the final winners’ group. If my memory serves me well, bookies refused to “price” Group finals on a few occasions.
- One will tell me that this is a dangerous strategy, as usually groups become stronger as the competition unfolds and there is a risk to fail to qualify for the winners’ group and the chance to grab a spot in the 2022 Champion of Champions. True, but then logic would dictate that players who have already qualified for that event, should not be in the draw… in this edition, Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan are in that position already.
I have very mixed feelings about this event. The negative ones have been expressed above, the positive ones stem from the fact that players usually play with more freedom in this event, and it makes for entertaining viewing as they go for, and often get, shots they rarely play in ranking competitions.